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How We're Using Snapchat to Help Treat My Daughter's OCD

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Dear Snapchat’s awesome and wacky lens filter designers: Thank you!

Thank you for inventing new and free mental health therapy opportunities each day.

Wait, Snapchat for therapy? Yes, let me explain.

I know most people use Snapchat lenses to make stories more fun, but my daughter and I use them as part of her therapy. See, she has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and this mental disease causes severe anxiety and disruption in her life. While OCD affects people in different ways, my daughter’s issues center around contamination (vomit) and intrusive thoughts about personal safety.

This is where Snapchat lenses help out.

The most effective therapy for OCD is called exposure and response prevention (ERP). With ERP, kids learn to face their OCD. They start with exposures that are easy to do, then work up to more difficult, tougher exposures. The more a child challenges OCD, the more he/she gets comfortable with the anxiety and realizes OCD is lying. (This is an oversimplification of ERP, but hopefully you get it – Confronting not Avoiding.)  

So given that my daughter fears vomit, can you guess our favorite Snapchat lens? Yes, vomiting rainbow.


This little puking dynamo is a great way to slowly face her fear. It takes something she finds scary and makes it, unexpectedly, fun. We love all the vomit lens variation – vomiting Ping Pong balls, vomiting pineapple, etc.

Keep them coming Snapchat!


Lenses make great beginner ERP. My daughter frames them as a level one or two anxiety. Perfect for simple reminders to fight back against her fear. (Yes, we build up to harder, more difficult ERP outside Snapchat.)

Overtime, Snapchat designers have upped their design game and their experiments have allowed us to do more ERP. Lately we’ve been using the scarier lenses, I’m talking about these X-Ray Skeleton and Zombie themed lenses. These test her OCD worries about intrusive thoughts and “bad people.”


The scarier lenses do induce OCD anxiety and this is a good thing. If we can start in a controlled environment, like Snapchat, we can work up to harder, real world exposures.

The lesson here is every little bit helps. And I’m thankful my daughter and I can use a platform we both love to help her stay strong. So thanks again Snapchat. For giving us one more tool to fight a tough disease.

Originally published: October 7, 2016
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